Before Barry University men’s basketball team took on Palm Beach Atlantic Wednesday evening, coach Butch Estes knew 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Daniel Mortensen was doing some nice things for the Buccaneers.
Mortensen, a transfer from Wright State, picked up his third Sunshine State Conference defensive player of the week a day earlier.
Estes, though, learned Mortensen’s real value to the team early in the game against Palm Beach Atlantic, which is in the middle of the SSC standings.
Mortensen picked up two quick fouls and spent much of the first half on the bench. Barry, 14-1 overall, 7-1 in the SSC and ranked No. 7 in the NABC top 25, went into halftime ahead 39-37. Mortensen played more in the second half, and Barry wound up winning by 18 points.
“I realized his importance in his absence on the floor,” Estes said.
One thing any basketball coach loves in a player is a willingness to play good defense. Oftentimes, solid defense doesn’t show up in a box score. Sure, there are some indicators like rebounding and blocks. But so much more goes into playing defense that cannot be quantified by statistics.
Mortensen enjoys doing those things to help the Buccaneers win games.
“We have a lot of guys who can play offense and score,” Mortensen said. “I try to set a tone of playing hard defense and establish myself as the primary rebounder on the team. I want to do all the small things that you don’t get noticed for.”
The defense Mortensen has played so far has even surprised Estes.
“When you look at him and judge his foot speed and his size, you would think his overall athleticism was his weakness,” Estes said. “He has overcome his deficiencies by his intelligence, commitment and focus on being a really good defensive player.”
Mortensen has definitely enjoyed his new school. For one, he is playing more than he did at Wright State. But his happiness at Barry goes deeper than more minutes.
“We have a great group of guys,” Mortensen said. “None of us are selfish. We want to share the ball and see our teammates succeed. I haven’t had this much fun playing basketball in a while.”
Barry is coming off a season in which it made it to the quarterfinals. The Buccaneers, though, entered this season without Yunio Barrueta, who graduated last season after earning All-American honors.
“The offense is a little more by committee this year,” Estes said. “It is a balanced team that can score in a lot of different ways with different people.”
Mortensen is one of the players who is providing offense. He is one of five players averaging in double figures at 10.9 points per game. He is second on the team in rebounding and first in blocked shots with 19.
And the exciting part for the Buccaneers is his comfort level with his teammates will only grow as the season moves on.
“It is a work in progress,” Estes said. “There is more to come. I have been so pleased. We knew he could score. We never dreamed he could defend like he has defended. We never dreamed he could rebound.”
The transition to a new school and new teammates has been easy for Mortensen.
“My teammates have been great since day one and the coaches have been awesome,” Mortensen said.
No. 1 Northwest Missouri State breaks 86-year-old conference record
For longtime college basketball fans, the name Henry Iba harkens back to one of the legendary coaches from the 1930s until he retired from Oklahoma State in 1970.
Iba, who passed away in 1993, is in several halls of fame, including the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Before leading Oklahoma A&M and Oklahoma State to national success, Iba experienced plenty of winning at Northwest Missouri State. In fact, he had one stretch in which his teams won 19 straight MIAA regular-season games from 1930-31. The record stood for 86 years until Jan. 14, 2017.
Ironically, it was Northwest Missouri State that topped the record. On Saturday, Northwest Missouri State won its 20th straight MIAA regular season game, winning 75-54 at Southwest Baptist.
“It is certainly humbling to be able to break the record of somebody as good as he was in coaching, especially in today’s day in age with all the scouting and all the coaching and all the different players,” Northwest Mo. St. coach Ben McCollum said.“Honestly, the way millennials supposedly are, they are not supposed to be ready for every game. They have been. They have proven that their generation can do those things. They can be unselfish. They can be tough. They aren’t entitled. They are a special group.”
Northwest, ranked No. 1 in the NABC top 25, improved to 16-0 overall and 8-0 in the MIAA.
Bob Chipman reaches 800 career wins at Washburn
Bob Chipman, who is in his 37th and final season as Washburn men’s basketball coach, became the 17th coach in NCAA history to reach 800 career wins. He accomplished it Saturday evening when the Ichabods won 74-69 at Central Oklahoma.